Farmer students named top undergrad team in world at Global Case Competition at Harvard

April 2018

Jay Murdock

A team of Farmer School students finished as the top undergraduate team in the world at the Global Case Competition at Harvard on April 14.

“Farmer's Five Forces” was one of 10 finalists invited to Boston to present out of around 150 teams that entered. The team, comprised of finance majors junior Noah Slade, sophomore Joe Braun, senior Morgan Rice, sophomore Garret Markey, and sophomore Jacob White, was one of only three U.S. teams among the chosen finalists.

The team’s participation in the competition started with a Google search.

“I was looking for a way to include this group of people, since we’d worked together on other case competitions,” White said. “We thought Harvard, being such a big stage, one of the biggest competitions around, was a great way to put ourselves out there and see what we could achieve shooting for the moon.”

The competition’s case was based on an actual interaction between two luxury retail companies in 2014. The competing teams had to advise a CEO on what actions he should take.

“They submit a Powerpoint deck of what they think should happen,” associate professor and Director of Global Business Initiatives Dr. David Shrider said. “(In the finals) you have 15 minutes to talk about it and five minutes for Q&A.”

“The case competition, part of it is building out a pitch, essentially say ‘What should they do? Here’s our guidance,’ as if we were an actual banker working for the company,” Braun said.

“You just go once you get the case. We didn’t even know if it would be an M&A, a venture capital, we had no idea. So then once we got the case, we started from scratch,” Rice pointed out.

Much of the knowledge needed to know how to make the case came from outside the classroom, since more than half the team are only sophomores.

“Most of us have only taken Finance 301,” White said. “A lot of it comes from reading books, looking at older people who graduated, their case competitions. Just doing a lot of research to prepare ourselves.”

“We were happy with the way our deck came out, we’re happy with the work we did, but in a case competition, anything’s possible,” Markey noted. “Looking back at the last two years that were published online, we saw the competition was definitely going to be tough.”

After being named one of the finalists earlier this year, the team traveled to Boston, and after a night of networking, arrived at Harvard to find out when they would present.

“We were second, so we did a little practice session and then had our presentation. We thought the presentation went really well. Q&A, we were a little uncertain on,” Slade said.

Later that evening, they found out they had won second place behind a Spanish team of masters students, making their finish even more impressive.

“I was amazed and pleased. It was phenomenal. I can’t say enough good things about this team. Clearly, they are great students, and it was an honor to work with them,” Shrider said. “To be the top undergraduate team in the world and the top team in the United States…it was an unbelievable performance.”

“As surprised as we were, we knew we definitely deserved it because we put in a lot of hard work,” Markey said.

“Even though you’re going up against the entire world, never count yourself out. Hard work definitely pays off, which is self-evident here because we put in a lot of time,” Slade remarked. “It wasn’t easy by any means, but I think it definitely paid off in the end.”

Farmer Five Forces team at Global Case Competition at Harvard